Observing Volcanoes with Drones
Although one may assume that operating a drone over a volcano, through flying rocks and ash, would be a sure-fire way to end your mission, this is surprisingly not the case for a team of scientists from the University of Mainz, Germany. The team, in fact, used drones as a tool for collecting gas directly from Mount Etna in Italy, an expedition that took 6-days, operating at over 3000 meters above sea level, and is using this for volcano analysis.
The scientists discovered they could adopt the technology and use a thermal camera to distinguish the crater’s temperature, while also using a drone with a multi-gas estimation box to examine the gas structure from the atmosphere.
According to sUAS News, “Mount Etna has a long and frequent history of lava forming and eruptions. It’s a perfect natural laboratory, but one we need to analyze more thoroughly to protect the population in the area.”
Since drones allow for quick and precise data collection, while simultaneously decreasing susceptibility to precarious conditions, they were the perfect tool for this job. By dissecting the chemistry of the vapours and lava, and through constructing 3D visuals based on the captured drone images, the scientists are confident that they will advance their knowledge of what is occurring far beneath the volcano.
This information would then give them a growing capacity to project when the next significant eruption will occur. This information, in theory, could save lives. Though studies are ongoing, drones will likely be used in future data collection with potential for increased prediction accuracy due to the introduction of these new tools in their research.